Grading The Games: Week 9

Staff Columnist
Posted Oct 28, 2013

Fresno State-San Diego State gained high marks for most of the night this past Saturday... and then Rocky Long botched the final 22 seconds. It was that kind of a Saturday in college football. A few individual teams made straight As, but no game hit the "A" range.

By Matt Zemek
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UCLA-OREGON: C-minus. Oregon's defense certainly played well, but UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley threw the ball terribly in this game and made cringe-worthy mistakes. Oregon's offense was flat and uninspired for 40 minutes before roaring to life in the final 20. You're not going to see an above-average grade for this game, especially with Oregon's kicking-game miscues thrown into the mix.

SOUTH CAROLINA-MISSOURI: D-plus. Connor Shaw gets an A-plus. Missouri's Michael Sam gets an A, and Mike Davis gets extra credit from teachers everywhere for flunking the first half but then blocking out a number of awful mistakes with a tremendous fourth quarter. Bruce Ellington gets an A for playing through pain and making a season-saving touchdown catch. Cheers to these standout players for what they did on the gridiron. As a whole, though, this game stunk. South Carolina flunked the first three quarters, and Missouri shriveled in the final quarter plus the two overtime stanzas (in all three phases of play, not just one or even two). The state of Missouri knows what it means to bear witness to games that are exciting, tense and close… but poorly played. Just ask the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.

FRESNO STATE-SAN DIEGO STATE: B. San Diego State played really, really well and has come a long way from where it was in early September. Fresno State did well to somehow survive the Aztecs' onslaught. Yet, this game can't get a straight A – not when SDSU head coach Rocky Long butchered the final 25 seconds of regulation time after coaching a near-perfect fourth quarter. The Aztecs' kicking game has killed the program over the course of many decades, and it did so again on Saturday night. Fresno State – while certainly getting points for perseverance – was pushing uphill and against the run of play all night long. The Bulldogs, as far as BCS busters go, look a lot more "Hawaii 2007" than "Boise State 2006" at this point. Yet, it would be good for the sport if Fresno State gets to play a big-time team at some point this season.

STANFORD-OREGON STATE: D. Stanford's defense was terrific, and everything else about this game was awful. Oregon State won most snaps, but none of the important ones. More specifically, the Beavers created numerous situations in which simple plays would have produced highly significant first downs, but their passing game utterly failed. A five-yard pass here was overthrown by quarterback Sean Mannion, and a four-yard pass there was dropped by a (non-Brandin Cooks) receiver. The Beavers left lots of points on the field due to their own errors, and they handed a struggling Stanford offense six free points by fumbling a kick in their own red zone. Mike Riley made a cowardly decision to punt the ball when trailing by 11 with nearly 4:30 left in regulation… and Stanford promptly made Riley look like a genius by fumbling on its subsequent possession. It was that kind of a game – a really bad one.

DUKE-VIRGINIA TECH: F. Eight interceptions? Four by the winning team? You also mean to tell me that Duke didn't complete a pass in the second half and WON? In BLACKSBURG? Against the most successful ACC Coastal Division team since the ACC adopted a two-division format in 2005? Hashtag "#goacc" to the N-th degree.

WAKE FOREST-MIAMI: D. Unlike Duke-Virginia Tech, one team built a lead with appreciably crisp play on offense (Wake), while the other rallied by managing to get out of its own way (Miami). However, most of this game featured a level of quarterbacking that induced groans of displeasure. This became an important game to watch in the noon Eastern time window, but the quality of play made many viewers lunge for the remote control.

NORTHWESTERN-IOWA: F. This game made Wake Forest-Miami look good by comparison. Enough said.

NEBRASKA-MINNESOTA: C. Minnesota earns straight As for this marvelous performance under an interim/caretaker head coach, while Nebraska gets a flunking grade. Do we need to discuss this at great length? We shouldn't.

TEXAS TECH-OKLAHOMA: C. There were many flashes of excellence in this game, and Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury certainly coached well in terms of handling various individual situations. Yet, this game was also a slopfest with poor special teams play, especially on the Oklahoma side of the divide. Turnovers littered the stat sheet as well. Yes, viewers were entertained by this contest, but don't overlook the many flaws. No, this wasn't an above-average game… not if you have high standards, at any rate.

HOUSTON-RUTGERS: C. The winning team's "A" and the losing team's "F" create an easy straight-C ballgame.

PITTSBURGH-NAVY: C-plus. This had the look and feel of a fairly average game, but it deserves a slight push in the direction toward the "B" range because of the way in which Navy competed on a day when it struggled to find its footing in the first half. This was a vintage Navy win from the Ken Niumatalolo era. The ability to win this kind of game is precisely what has enabled the Midshipmen to make so many bowl appearances over the past 10 years.

CLEMSON-MARYLAND: F. The ACC did not have a good day, in case you're still wondering. This was train-wreck stuff in College Park.

UTAH-USC: F. If you watched most of the first quarter of this game, you might have wanted to stab your own eyes. The final three quarters didn't get any better. USC's offense – especially in the red zone – was terrible. Yet, the Trojans – who unofficially sustained 18,396 injuries in the weeks leading up to this game – were able to easily put the Utes to bed. This Utah team beat Stanford, everyone. This wasn't and isn't a good moment for the Pac-12, and the grade for this game should reflect as much. Give USC plenty of due credit for competing well when shorthanded, but the story of this game was the extent to which Utah – so tough at home – cannot tie its shoelaces away from Salt Lake City.

BOISE STATE-BYU: C-plus. This was a ragged an uneven game in many respects, but BYU certainly flourished and deserves high marks for doing so. Boise State would get an "F," but the Broncos are so banged up at a number of positions that they will be granted a "D" instead, nudging this game into the upper tier of the "C" range.

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE – ARKANSAS STATE: B-minus. Arkansas State committed several really dumb penalties, but for the most part, this game was defined by ULL's excellence. The Ragin' Cajuns were nearly flawless in this contest. They claimed control of the Sun Belt race with one of the most impressive performances of week nine. Straight As for Mark Hudspeth and his players.